Entire US B-52H Bomber Fleet to Carry More Precision-Guided Munitions

By | Apr 20, 2017 10:15 AM EDT

B-52H and its massive bomb load. (Photo : USAF)

The remaining 76 Boeing B-52H Stratofortress long-range strategic bombers of the U.S. Air Force will be able to carry a larger number of precision-guided munitions once a series of sophisticated upgrades is completed.

The increased payload is the offshoot of the 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade (IWBU). IWBU increases the carriage capacity of the B-52H by some 66 percent, an advantage that allows more targets to be attacked in one sortie.

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IWBU also enables the B-52H to carry inside its bomb bay most of the Air Force's newest, precision-guided weapons. It uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload.

This modernization means the over half-century old B-52H (the last of which was made in 1962) can carry at least eight of the newest "J-series" precision guided weapons inside its massive bomb bay. Six of the "J" weapons can be slung underneath each wing.

The precision-guided J-series consists of the AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile), a semi-stealthy, long-range cruise missile; the AGM-158C JASSM Extended Range (JASSM-ER) cruise missile; the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), a medium range precision-guided weapon and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), which are dumb bombs that become accurate smart bombs with the addition of a tail guidance kit.

Another weapon of note that can now be housed inside the bomb bay is the ADM-160B MALD (Miniature Air-Launched Decoy), a decoy missile used to jam and confuse enemy air defense radars.

The project outfitting the B-52H with J-series precision guided weapons should be completed by 2022.

In addition to these weapons upgrades, the B-52H fleet is being equipped with digital data-links; moving-map displays; next-generation avionics; new radios and an ability to integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge.

The bombers will also receive Combat Network Communication Technology (CONECT), a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade that allows B-52 crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight.

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